U.S. Capitol Building
The U.S. Capitol Building (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The House GOP’s health care bill would cause 23 million people to lose coverage by 2026 while destabilizing health insurance markets in some states and making it hard for sick people to buy insurance, a budget watchdog agency said Wednesday.

The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan group of experts who analyze U.S. legislation, said the bill would reduce federal deficits by $119 billion between 2017 and 2026, Reuters reported.

The report could give added ammunition to Democrats who have accused President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans of putting sick and low-income people at risk with their effort to roll back former President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health care law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act but often called Obamacare.

The report also complicates the job of Senate Republicans — some of whom already have doubts about the House bill — as they craft their own health care legislation, according to the Reuters report.

Immediately, Democrats and others who oppose the plan went on the offensive.

“Higher costs, less coverage — that’s the reality facing families under the congressional Republican health care plan,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania). “Those with preexisting conditions, like cancer and diabetes, risk losing their protections from discrimination and will pay higher prices for their care, if they can get someone to insure them.”

Casey said that because of over $830 billion in cuts to Medicaid, nursing home care for vulnerable seniors is in jeopardy, people with disabilities may lose their ability to live independently, and children with disabilities may lose critical school-based supports.

Further, the senator said state and local governments will also see their budgets dramatically stressed, as they are called upon to cover the costs that the federal government is shunting onto them.

“This health care bill is morally bankrupt and a disaster for children, middle-class families, seniors and individuals with disabilities,” he said. “And all of this — the higher costs and reduced protections for families — are done in order to finance a massive tax cut for the wealthiest.

“It’s time that President Trump and Republicans in Congress work with Democrats on a plan that actually brings down premiums and reduces the costs of prescription drugs,” Casey said.

Republicans have sought to unravel Obamacare since its passage and Trump promised on the campaign trail to repeal it, saying it is too costly and an overreach by government in the health care market.

As Trump and Republican leaders sought to bring wavering lawmakers on board with the House bill, they added a controversial last-minute amendment that would give states leeway to drop an Obamacare requirement that forces insurers to charge sick and healthy people the same insurance rates.

Another change would allow states to decide whether to require insurers to cover health benefits such as maternity care and prescription drugs that are mandatory under current law.

But the CBO report said the amendment would make it difficult or impossible for people in poor health to purchase comprehensive coverage in some states.

“People who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all,” the CBO report said.

The report noted that markets for people to buy individual insurance plans could then become unstable in states that choose to waive the Obamacare requirements for coverage of pre-existing medical conditions and essential health benefits.

The House bill would eliminate most Obamacare taxes that help subsidize private health coverage for individuals, roll back the government’s Medicaid health plan for the poor and disabled and replace the law’s income-based tax credits for buying medical coverage with credits based on age.

A group of 13 Republican senators led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to draft its own version of the health care bill in the coming months.

McConnell, however, told Reuters Wednesday he does not yet know how Republicans will get the necessary votes.

“This is a very challenging undertaking,” McConnell said.

After the release of the CBO report, several Republican senators said they could not support the House bill.

“While I am in favor of repealing Obamacare, I am opposed to the American Health Care Act in its current form,” Sen. Dean Heller said in a statement.

Groups representing hospitals, insurers and doctors who opposed the House bill said the CBO report showed the Senate should start fresh with an eye to maintaining coverage and benefits.

Democrats also blasted the bill and said the CBO report proved it would be catastrophic for millions of people who would lose health insurance.

“The report makes clear Trumpcare would be a cancer on the American health care system,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said at a news conference.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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